Separate But Equal Dating November 20, 2008

Separate But Equal Dating

eHarmony hasn’t always been friendly to atheists and gays. It’s like the dating world’s version of the Boy Scouts.

But thanks to a lawsuit, there will now be a gay version of eHarmony. It’s not *on* the same website… but it’ll be run by the company.

It all makes perfect sense…:

The settlement is the result of a complaint New Jersey resident Eric McKinley filed against the online matchmaker in 2005. McKinley, 46, said he was shocked when he tried to sign up for the dating site but couldn’t get past the first screen because there was no option for men seeking men.

“It’s very frustrating and it’s very humiliating to think that other people can do it and I can’t,” he said. “And the only reason I can’t is because I’m a gay man. That’s very hurtful.”

Neither the company nor its founder, Neil Clark Warren, acknowledged any liability. Under the settlement, eHarmony will pay New Jersey state division $50,000 to cover administrative costs and will pay McKinley $5,000.

Pasadena, Calif.-based eHarmony said it plans to launch its new service, called Compatible Partners, on March 31.

Of course, the more popular and better-known eHarmony site will have nothing to do with those evil gays.

The founder himself said this about why his company doesn’t allow for same-sex dating a few years ago:

… But Warren says eHarmony promotes heterosexual marriage, about which he has done extensive research. He says he does not know enough about gay and lesbian relationships to do same-sex matching.

It “calls for some very careful thinking. Very careful research.” He adds that same-sex marriage is illegal in most states. “We don’t really want to participate in something that’s illegal.”

I didn’t realize eHarmony gave away marriage licenses.

Seems like the smarter option is to just say no to the new site (and eHarmony in general) and pay for services at a place that doesn’t practice discrimination.

(via Pam’s House Blend)

"He's worse than either. In the opinion of Wonkette he is on a level with ..."

AL Sen. Tommy Tuberville Foolishly Wants ..."
"That's so cute. My small daughter was distrssed when she discovered somehow that all the ..."

Called Out for Anti-Semitic Stereotypes, TV ..."
"My last resort would be to see how much of my DNA I can get ..."

Called Out for Anti-Semitic Stereotypes, TV ..."
"Although, never knows when one might be called upon to reinforce concrete...."

Called Out for Anti-Semitic Stereotypes, TV ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Daniel H.


    eHarmony is a private company. Can’t they service whoever they see fit?

    If someone doesn’t like the service they shouldn’t use it or find a service that has what they’re looking for, or start their own.

    That’s like suing McDonald’s because they aren’t providing tacos.

  • Jesse

    Wouldn’t it be accurate to say that homosexual relationships do not have the same expectations and dynamics that heterosexual ones do? I wouldn’t expect someone who knows a lot about heterosexual relationships to learn the same amount of info for homosexual couples. Like the above commenter said, it’s a private company.

  • sc0tt

    Is a dating site that doesn’t accept gays more like:

    1. A private men’s club that doesn’t accept women members?

    2. A restaurant/business that doesn’t serve black customers?

    eHarmony didn’t lose the suit, it just decided not to fight it.

  • mikespeir

    I wonder the same thing that Daniel H does. What was the basis for this lawsuit? Could someone sue if a gay-only site refused to provide heterosexual matchmaking? Who says eHarmony has to cater to gays and lesbians? Is it some kind of public service provided by the government, funded by taxpayer dollars?

  • I think the problem might be because eHarmony never states up front that they do not accept homosexuals for potential matchups.
    Under their terms of eligibility they say:

    1. Eligibility.

    Minimum Age. You must be at least 13 years old to use the Site (or the age of majority in your jurisdiction, if it is older), and at least 18 years old to register for the Services. By using the Singles Service, you represent and warrant that you are at least 18 years old. Other Services may have other age requirements for all or portion of such Services, and such other age requirements are stated on such Services or portions thereof.

    Marital Status. By requesting to use, registering to use, or using the Singles Service, you represent and warrant that you are not married. If you are separated, but not yet legally divorced, you may not request to use, register to use, or use the Singles Service.

    Criminal History. By requesting to use, registering to use, and/or using the Singles Service, you represent and warrant that you have never been convicted of a felony and are not required to register as a sex offender with any government entity. EHARMONY DOES NOT CURRENTLY CONDUCT CRIMINAL BACKGROUND SCREENINGS ON ITS MEMBERS. However, eHarmony reserves the right to conduct a criminal background check, at any time and using available public records, to confirm your compliance with this subsection.

    No where in their eligibility requirements does it say that you have to be seeking a heterosexual relationship.

    This is just my take on the potential legal problems that has caused eHarmony to change their services. I’m not legal expert though, just a grad student

  • Audrey

    The fact that they have separate sites means that they are still discriminating against bi people who don’t want to have to pick one… guess it’s good I’m already taken?

  • Miko

    eHarmony is a private company. Can’t they service whoever they see fit?

    Legally, probably no (depending on certain provisos of the state constitution). The Tenth Amendment delegates powers to regulate intrastate commerce to the states (in theory), so they have the authority to make all sorts of rules whether they make sense or not. It’s a bit strange that this went through the courts, but I imagine that an equal protection style argument was probably offered.

    As Jefferson stated in the Declaration of Independence, government exists solely to protect equality of opportunity and individual rights. Things necessarily become complicated when these two goals are in conflict. Seeing as (at the national level) Katzenbach v. McClung and Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States were both decided 9-0, I’d say that the right to discriminate privately, when the government decides it doesn’t want you to, is (in certain areas) pretty much gone.

    Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that they’re discriminating against married people as well. The same equal protection argument for LGBT clientele would apply to adulterers. While restricting discrimination may appear like a nice goal in theory, in practice we need to be careful in practice to ensure we only restrict rights when absolutely necessary.

    In this case, I’m not sure that threshold is met (especially since competing providers do service the LGBT community). Overall, I’d much prefer handling things through Hemant’s free market approach: just boycott eHarmony and they’ll lose out to more enlightened competitors.

  • This is where “free market” and “having a conscience” collide. Sure, eHarmony has the right to discriminate. But the society that allows them to operate within it’s bounds is a society that tolerates discriminatory practices, which I cannot abide.

    So if you have a conscience, you really don’t want them to be allowed to do this, and if you are in favor of “less government” you really don’t want them to be told how to run their business.

    And I feel pulls in both directions.

    The solution seems clear: find a cure for gay use someone else because eHarmony doesn’t deserve anyone’s business if they practice such discrimination.

  • ash


    Wouldn’t it be accurate to say that homosexual relationships do not have the same expectations and dynamics that heterosexual ones do? I wouldn’t expect someone who knows a lot about heterosexual relationships to learn the same amount of info for homosexual couples.

    ok, define the ‘expectations and dynamics’ of heterosexual relationships. are they the same dynamics that tell us the patently ridiculous idea that all couples with children have exactly 2.4 kids? are you exceptionally naive and inexperienced, or do you really have no clue that people are not just stereotypes, and are, in fact, complex and varied, regardless of their gender, race or sexuality?

    Wouldn’t it be accurate to say that homosexual black relationships do not have the same expectations and dynamics that heterosexual white ones do? I wouldn’t expect someone who knows a lot about heterosexual white relationships to learn the same amount of info for homosexual black couples.

    whilst i’m inclined to let a private company be bigots if they want, and hope they crash and burn miserably because of it, i would like to see the mindset that gay people are somehow subhuman or an entirely different species eradicated post-haste.

  • Chris

    I’m with Daniel H.

    There is nothing that prevents homosexuals from signing up (nor hermaphrodites, nor monkeys, nor invalids, etc.) therefore I don’t think the analogy of refusing to serve black customers is appropriate.

    For arguments sake, let’s suppose they had a drop down option for “men seeking men” or “women seeking women”, but upon submission of the form the user is taken to a page with links to other websites that did offer such services. Would it be discrimination then?

  • Richard Wade

    Warren’s excuses for not allowing same-sex dating are disingenuous bullshit. He’s either a bigot or he’s afraid of bigots giving his company trouble.

    Hemant, starting the new “gay” site doesn’t solve the problem about discriminating against atheists. Any developments on that front?

  • HeavyThinker

    I rarely comment on this site. Although I’m straight, I’m about as pro-gay rights as can be. This post (and many subsequent comments) have me feeling as though I must say something.

    This isn’t about homosexuality, it’s about gender roles. EHarmony brands itself as a relationship-psychology founded dating site, and the methods used are designed to work with heterosexual gender roles.

    This, to me, is more akin to forcing a gynecologist to do post-op work on a male-to-female transexual. Sorry, they didn’t study that, they shouldn’t be forced to specialize in it. Same thing with a sex therapist.

    Specialized services exist for a reason, and it seems that reason has been left behind in the name of equality in this case.

  • anthony

    I guess as a business owner I have a different perspective.

    My motive is to operate a business in pursuit of profit the way I feel fit to do so.

    If you don’t like my services, you are free to go elsewhere, thus exercising your right to control my profits.

    If you or the government seeks to regulate my business through the intervention of “public good” then I lose my freedom to operate my business.

    The long and short of it is, its a private company, so you need to go elsewhere, or better yet create your own company and stop complaining.

  • Andy

    As a gay guy, I don’t really care if eHarmony wants to find me a “mate”. Two reasons:

    1. They’re supposedly scientific in how they match people. Based on data from straight couples/relationships. We don’t really know what that data is, so I’m not sure how we could assume that it could be equally applied to gay relationships.

    2. They can do whatever the hell they want. They’re a private business, and there certainly are gay-only dating sites.

    3. Even if they’re being dicks: lots of people are dicks. Big deal.

  • sc0tt

    Hemant, starting the new “gay” site doesn’t solve the problem about discriminating against atheists. Any developments on that front?

    The linked newspaper article says e-Harmony does include atheist members; that rather surprised me.

    A few years ago I remember a non-religious guy who was rejected by eHarmony saying he was essentially undatable. He took the personality profile and the result was “we can’t help you.” Apparently 28 or so of the “dimensions of compatibility” involved religion and the algorithm fails when you divide by zero.

  • Discovery

    There are plenty of niche industries in the market place – Curves Fitness being a prime example. They are a specialized business model catering to a female only client. Their business does not cater to male clients – and actually excludes males in order to create a female only environment. This isn’t considered constitutional discrimination.

    eHarmony doesn’t exclude homosexuals – they simply don’t provide the service of matching a male with a male, which is what the lawsuit was about. They also don’t match married men with single women, which they were sued for, nor women with women, men with transvestites, nor men with multiple partners. This is not their niche, expertise nor provided service. The lawsuit didn’t content that eHarmony let the guy join – the requested that he be matched with another man – that is service, not entrance.

    This precedent is dangerous – because it opens niche businesses to provide services against their niche and expertise – which is what specifically sets that business apart – without exclusivity, Curves is just another gym, eHarmony – or are just another dating website. You can’t get a taco at pizza hut, you can’t request a male to male match at eHarmony.

    For the record eHarmoney does allow non-faith members on their site. And what if eHarmony’s male-to-male business fails? Is that now discrimination?

  • Curtis

    Should an atheist dating site be sued for discriminating against theists? Should Jewish/Christian/Chinese/Indian/etc dating sites be sued for discrimination?

  • So, where do the bisexuals sign up? Lol.

  • California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act is pretty comprehensive. The same law that prevents lunch counters from refusing to serve blacks also compels eHarmony to serve gays (or for that matter for gyms to serve both sexes).